Three years later, when she was playing soccer, the device shocked her three times, struck her heart with 2,000 volts of electricity, and left an understandable, debilitating fear of feeling that “hot whip” again.
It was then that Standefer really began to think about the cost of the defibrillator – not just in terms of her own peace of mind, but also the environmental impact. She has been haunted by the idea that her device contains “conflict minerals,” the illicit profits of greedy miners. We make a pilgrimage with her to the production facility in Sylmar, California, where she hoped to find out whether it is worth making the thing in my body. And then on to Madagascar, where she visits a nickel and cobalt mine and “tries to understand what it takes to pull metal from the ground”; and finally to Rwanda, to a mine that produces ilmenite, the mineral that turns into titanium. She writes: “I had a titanium can on top of my left chest. I had to visit. “
Standefer alternates exploratory chapters with passages about her personal life, including career changes, financial worries, and her struggle to build an independent adult life while enduring endless medical difficulties. I preferred these chapters to the journalistic ones, not because the travel stories weren’t gripping, but because I couldn’t get enough of Standefer’s unsinkable mind and eye for small moments of grace – for example, when her father read her from “A” on the light Loft ”by Shel Silverstein. “The sound of his voice made me want to cry with sweetness,” she writes. “But instead I went back to it. I breathed carefully and carefully into the deepest parts of my lungs. “
Standefer is – and I mean that as the highest compliment – like a dog with a bone. She won’t rest until she has answers. Your search made me wonder what if we all questioned our impact on the planet with such determination? What if we insisted on following lines that connect us to other parts of the bigger picture? “Lightning Flowers” can inspire you to start your own quest. Don’t forget to pack the original multi-purpose tool: a pen.
[ Read an excerpt from “Lightning Flowers.” ]
How does Katherine Standefer’s age work to her advantage and disadvantage throughout her story? How is your case a microcosm of the state of health in our country?
Was there a moment in this book where you thought the solution was worse than the problem? If so, when? Would you have decided to do something differently?
“Brain on fire,” by Susannah Cahalan. One reporter recalls her descent into madness, which was actually something completely different. Like Standefer, she describes the loneliness of being “an interesting case”.
“inferno, ”By Catherine Cho. Cho’s memoir alternates between her darkest days with postpartum psychosis and the events that led her to be treated in a mental hospital. Their trip is an indictment of the culture of whispering about mothers and insanity.